Waikato-BOP Magic ready to walk their talk
Players have honest words with one another as they look to improve, reports Aaron Goile.
There were some honest, emotive words at Magic training this week.
With one win from their past four trans-Tasman league games, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty side are anxious to get things right ahead of the playoffs.
They haven't built the momentum they would have liked in the back half of the regular season. Last weekend they suffered their biggest loss of the year against the New South Wales Swifts in Sydney, and on Monday in Hamilton they face another stern challenge from the Queensland Firebirds in their last regular season game.
The Magic's culture is one where everybody is encouraged to voice their opinions and get things off their chest, rather than hide away from the facts.
"After a loss, in some teams, it can get a bit like that," said Grace Rasmussen, who is in her first year at the Magic after being at the Northern Mystics.
But Rasmussen - the third most experienced player at the Magic - said there were "a few honest conversations" when the squad regrouped on Thursday night.
"Everyone gets to say what they feel. And I think a few of us voiced that. And it's great for the team.
" And at the end of it we were all on the same page and we all agreed on what needs to happen."
As Rasmussen noted, the key for the Magic is to improve their centre pass-attack, and also be able to score off the sufficient turnover ball they are getting from star pairing Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin.
"I think it's just going back to the basics. Coming up against an Australian style of play, we know that they're hard man-on marking, so it's just a matter of doing the work before the ball gets to us.
"I think we were guilty of probably roaming around a bit too much in that Swifts game, so making sure that we're going back to our set plays and prepared to put in the hard yards to lose our defender in order to give each other open options."
Like the team, Rasmussen reckons she's shied away from her best form, despite topping the competition statistics for goal assists (211).
"I think I started off the season with a hiss and a roar and then I think my standards possibly dropped a little. And I know that I need to look in the mirror and make sure that I come back on Monday night and be fully prepared to give it 100 per cent.
"I'm not too worried about the stats at this stage, it's about a team effort and making sure that I'm playing my role within the attacking unit."
The Magic were held to their lowest score of the season (43) against the Swifts, and their shooters should find no easy path past impressive Australian Diamonds captain Laura Geitz either, so that makes Rasmussen's task all the more important. It is also her penultimate chance to shine ahead of the Silver Ferns Commonwealth Games squad naming on June 10.
The 26-year-old has been involved in the Ferns' cluster sessions - the last of those a fortnight ago. A recall is definitely on the cards, but she is doing her best to ignore the prospect and not get complacent.
"I'd love to make the Silver Ferns, don't get me wrong. But from the beginning of the season I've said that my main focus is the Magic and that whatever comes of that is a bonus.
"It'd be great to go away again to the Commonwealth Games, so yeah, we'll see what happens, watch this space."